The role of sensory touch in the foundational years of your baby

Jun 20 , 2022

Shilpa Verma

The role of sensory touch in the foundational years of your baby

The core idea associated with the term “Sensory” is related to neurological implications. The initial years in a baby’s life are crucial for the rapid development of these neurological connections. To trigger the formation of these connections, the stimulation of various senses that boosts physical as well as cognitive activities in babies is necessary. 

  • What are senses?

The various ways we view the world are referred to as our senses.

Our brains employ a variety of senses to help us navigate our surroundings.  Taste, smell, sight, touch, and sound are the five most well-known senses.

  • What is sensory play?

The activity that engages and stimulates the children's senses is known as sensory play. The sensory play activities Mainly concentrate on activating the senses of touch, sight, and sound.

Touch plays an important role in the early development of a child's physical and communication abilities, as well as his or her ability to participate in physical activities.

 The act of touching activates sensors within muscles and joints, transferring messages back and forth from the skin to the brain. Therefore every time a child comes in contact with any object, the brain receives a message and makes a decision.

  • Why is sensory touch important?

    At 16 weeks prenatally, the sense of touch allows a baby to interact with his or her surroundings.  This sense is critical to the development of children's physical ability, language and cognitive capabilities, and social-emotional competency. Newborns can learn about their surroundings, bond with their caregivers, and convey their needs and desires through touch.

Lack of touch during the early years has shown a decrease in the growth of newborns.  Infants who have greater physical touch with caretakers had better brain development in the first six months of life than young children who have less physical engagement.

  • Positive outcomes such as less likely to be aggressive, hostile and decreased anxiousness can be seen if an infant received high levels of maternal touch in the initial period.
  • On the other hand, touch deprivation could also be linked to greater aggression and a negative impact on the emotional and behavioural wellbeing of a child.
  • The physical contact between the parents and the baby leads to the release of oxytocins also known as the bonding hormones that can enhance a child's emotional wellbeing. 

The touch of sense is linked with four different sensory abilities:

1) Touch - The skin of a child's body has touch receptors that detect pressure on the skin and transmit it to touch neurons in the brain.

2) Temperature - Temperature receptors are also present in the skin of a child. However, they cannot regulate their own body temperature. 

3) Pain - Pain receptors in a baby's body are assumed to be activated as early as the third trimester of pregnancy.

4) Proprioception- Proprioception is the ability to identify the position 

and movement of one's own body. 

  • Here's how to introduce the sensory play to your babies:
  • 1) Play with the dough:

    Babies are naturally inclined to grab a fistful of hand. Let your little one play with non-toxic playdough or flour instead. The texture will stimulate the sense of touch in your babies. While you make your rotis, your little helper can definitely keep you entertained.

    2) The guessing game:

    Let your baby close his/ her eyes and feel the object. Describe the object to your baby and allow them to experience it. When a baby grows bigger, you can turn it into a guessing game. Let your child guess the object just by the feel of it. 

    3) Take a walk:

    Once your baby begins to walk, try walking barefoot on different kinds of surfaces with them. Try walking on smooth tiles, concrete floors, carpets or grass. Make sure no harmful substances are present on the path. Walking barefoot will expose them to different textures. Question them about how they feel, what do they experience.

    Sensory touch not only has short term benefits as an infant but also long term benefits such as physical growth, emotional well-being, cognitive function and health in general. Help your baby to experience the sense of touch and increase their chances of having long-term positive outcomes even as an adult.